October 21, 2014
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Letters
A conflict in naming playing fields?

To the Editor:

The Rhode Island Airport Corporation (RIAC) has asked the General Assembly to name the proposed new tot lot and sports complex next to its main runway at T.F. Green Airport after Rhode Island’s health insurance commissioner and former RIAC board chair, Kathleen Hittner, M.D.

This new facility will be in the direct path of exhaust fumes from jet planes as they power up to take off from the main runway against prevailing Southwest winds. Since the planes have not left the ground yet, their fumes will pour over the ground directly into the tot lot. RIAC, using 24-hour average exposures, argues that these takeoffs do not exceed industrial limits for soot and hydrocarbons. But that doesn’t matter when you put a toddler or a six-year-old soccer player directly into that swill of bad air. Asthma is a big concern here. Exercise-induced asthma can hit any exercising kid at any time. Add a jet plane expelling black smoke and other detritus, and parents have reason to be concerned.

In my father’s day, public buildings, bridges and ball fields were named after deceased heroes or humanists. There is good reason for this. Dr. Hittner is a highly paid and active state employee with responsibilities that include working with insurance companies. These companies fund asthma programs using premium dollars. It is her responsibility to rate the cost of such programs. I wonder what would happen if she were to deny a rate increase that included an asthma program? Could an insurance company point out a conflict of interest because her name is on a tot lot right next to the main runway at T.F. Green Airport?

The last thing I want to hear is RIAC suggesting that placing a tot lot and soccer field right next to the runway is OK because Dr. Hittner’s imprimatur is on it. Could this happen? Of course it could. Will it happen? Nobody knows. Why go down that road? How might insurance companies feel about this? More importantly, how do parents of the little ones feel? And what about Dr. Hittner? That critical question remains to be answered.

My father taught me that state facilities should not be named for living people. As a supervisor at the Howard Complex in Cranston during its WPA-funded building spurt of the late 1930s, he saw many buildings go up. The notable Benjamin Rush Building was named after an 18th century physician and signer of the Declaration of Independence. No buildings were named after still-employed state employees.

RIAC might consider naming this facility after the Kinnecom family. Their cemetery is located behind the fence next to the main runway at Green. The Kinnecoms moved from their wigwam in Old Buttonwoods to an honored place in Warwick’s history. They hosted President William Henry Harrison on the Fourth of July during his run for president. They served in the World Wars, and Kinnecom names are on the soldier’s plaque in front of Warwick City Hall. Their cemetery next to the runway at Green is easy to overlook.

There will be a hearing on the naming this Wednesday at the House of Representatives Finance Committee, at the State House in Providence. I will speak in opposition. It would be helpful if others in Warwick would call their state reps to register their concerns as well.

On the Senate side, Senator Erin Lynch pushed hard last week for the naming of this facility after Dr. Hittner. She dismissed the health concerns, saying the City Council agrees with her – hard to believe. The Senate committee chairman then decided to seek Dr. Hittner’s thoughts on the matter, holding the legislation for further study. I hope Dr. Hittner will read this letter and consider the health hazard, as well as the potential conflict with her job as Commissioner of Health Insurance.

Richard Langseth

Warwick


Comments
10 comments on this item

My only problem with this is you were all for Winslow Park which wasn't a healthy location either. So now that it is being moved to another side of the airport you are against it. Which is it the safety of the kids or your anti airport opinion? Also, who cares what they name it. They could name it Willy Wonka as it is a tot center.

Who is Wnslow Park named after ? why isn't the new field named that?

To Michael 2012

You missed Mr. Langseth's Point.

Given they have to vacate the field and move to a new location, this is the opportunity to move the kids out of an area known to contain high levels of toxins contaminants. The same distance away from the runway workers have the option to wear respirators and ear protection.

The airport (a corporation) proposed to name the new location after a state employee who is a Health Care Commissioner. By ethical public policy, health care commissioners typically advocate for kids health. Here we have a state employee and State Health Commissioner WHO HAD THE POWER TO MOVE THE KIDS TO A SAFER LOCATION AND INSTEAD CHOSE TO APPROVE PLANS TO PLACE KIDS IN AN AREA OF KNOWN INCREASED HEALTH RISKS WITH HIGH LEVELS OF TOXINS, when she could have had them moved to a safer location. That location would have to be more than 1 kilometer or more from the runway. New studies are indicating even further distances.

Dr. Hittner approved this to save the airport money, and now families and the insurance companies (she deals with as a health commissioner) will pay for kids increased levels of environmental illness. Is this economic development in RI? Get the kids sick so their families will spend more money for health care.

Naming the field after her also subordinates the Winslow family. The fields already have a name and this is a cheap way to get around the airport's slighting the Winslow family,.

She is the one who could protected the children here.

Mr. Langseth is just expressing his opinion, to make more people aware of what does seem an odd juxtaposition, one who is a physician and health care insurance administrator should advocate for better health condition, will have a toxic playing field where children become ill named after her as her legacy.

It is her issue.

Bill is scheduled to be heard in Room 35 at State House after 4:00 p.m.

To Michael 2012 RE Who is Winslow Park named after? Winslow.

Who is buried in Grant's tomb. Grant.

Who is Winslow Park named after? Winslow.

To Michael 2012

You asked "who cares what they name it" Obviously some people at RIAC care what they name it.. Obviously the people who named it "Winslow Park" what they named it. It's obvious you don't care what they name it. However it already has a name!

.

Use some of rocky point for playing fields

Bill "held for further study"

The Warwick City Council/Mayor/City of Warwick had the option of finding an alternative location from the location adjacent to the airport(default location option); from my recollection: 1) they looked at CCRI property-too small for their needs

2) Rocky Point property-based on prior State/local government history, there wasn't enough time to find a suitable area, seeing how long it would take for a collaborative decision to be made by State/local officials to decide on what property site would be needed.

Any other site/option was Warwick's decision; if anyone has a problem with the present site, blame the City of Warwick, not RIAC.

As far as the name of the park, it doesn't really mean that much to me; the primary thing is that Warwick, mainly Warwick taxpayers & users of the fields/location are satisfied/happy(as well as a group of people can be-I'm sure no one will be 100 % happy) with the fields/location/access, etc.

I don't know how the mothers of little soccer players could possibly be happy with their six year olds running around in the middle of late afternoon jet exhausts! I think if asked they would be stunned to discover just how bad the asthma problems might be for their kids.

So it's not so much about naming the fields after the state employed physician who deals with insurance companies and asthma as it is about the danger we are putting our little kids in.

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